Brett Barnes, Eelbrook, London

The Staff Canteen

Brett Barnes discusses his role as Head Chef at Eelbrook and his own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Brett Barnes

Brett Barnes

Role: Head Chef

Place of work: Eelbrook

Bio: Originally from Zimbabwe Chef Brett Barnes has gone from gastro pubs in Leeds, to Mark Hix in London to the 19th best restaurant in the world in Sweden but has now settled in London’s Eelbrook with a casual dining restaurant that Brett says is him. Brett and his team offer Mediterranean food with a lot of British ingredients on a menu that changes three or four items a week.

Chef Skills

Brett Barnes takes us through his personal experiences whilst being in the Culinary Industry. These key skills that young Chefs and industry professionals learn as part of their basic training.

How long have you been in the industry?

My first kitchen job came about in 2003 as an apprentice at a small restaurant in Leeds called Ferret Hall Bistro, so I’ve been in the business around 12 years to date.

What made you become interested in being a Chef?

I started getting into food and cooking during my time at university. It really took off when I broke my ankle playing football…I had nothing to do all day so ended up watching a lot of cooking programs and reading as many cookbooks as I could. That's when I really got the bug! Portland crab with marinda tomato, monksbeard and blood orange.

Portland crab with marinda tomato, monksbeard and blood orange

What experience do you think working for restaurants like Duck Soup and  Mark Hix has given you?

Working for Hix was a hugely important part of my career. It taught me that being a successful Chef is not just about knowing how to cook a nice piece of fish; it requires teamwork, leadership and business knowledge. It taught me a lot about how to run a kitchen and a restaurant. The Executive Chef there, Kevin Gratton was a real mentor of mine.

What sort of experience and traits would you be looking for in someone who was applying to work at Eelbrook?

People applying for Chef positions at Eelbrook need to possess the following traits: 

  • A passion for food
  • A good work ethic
  • A friendly, honest personality
  • The ability to work in a team
  • A clean, tidy and neat way of working
    Avocado, chilli, tomato, sourdough toast with poached egg

Good experience is preferable, although, skills can be taught - the characteristics I mention above often can't.

Who would you recommend people hoping to get started in the industry speak to in terms of advice and tips?

It’s not necessarily one person, it’s about finding your own mentor and inspiration.

In terms of my advice, if you want to get in this industry, a passion for and knowledge of food is absolutely paramount. Hard work is essential and the less you moan about it the better you will get along. Choose a restaurant to work in where you not only like the style of food, but you also get a good "vibe" from the kitchen and the staff.

For the first few years, try to work with various different types of cuisine in order to expand your knowledge. Work abroad for a stint if you ever get the opportunity.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th July 2016

Brett Barnes, Eelbrook, London